Manhattan real-estate maven Barbara Corcoran has a reputation for
parlaying her high–profile style into profits, whether offering stiff-upper-lip
sermons about the resiliency of the real-estate market (“It’ll buck up in three
months or I’ll eat my hat!” she recently told The Observer ) or giving motivational speeches to her staff at a
But starting in early 2003, the wisdom of Barbara Corcoran will
cost you-probably in the neighborhood of 30 bucks.
Ms. Corcoran signed a deal with Penguin Putnam editor Adrian
Zackheim on Nov. 16 to write an as-yet-untitled book about the tons of advice
her mother, Florence, has given her, and how she’s employed that advice in
running the city’s largest real-estate brokerage. The book will be released by
Penguin’s new business imprint, Portfolio, and Ms. Corcoran’s agent, Stuart
Krichevsky, said the contract was for “upwards of $500,000.”
“Money was not the object when I started writing the book,” said
Ms. Corcoran from her Park Avenue home, where she was working with co-author
Bruce Littlefield on Chapter 6: “Put Your Socks in the Sock Drawer.” “But once
all the bidders came
into play and we had an auction-which wasn’t planned-I became interested in the
money, and certainly the company that bid the most boldly won the book.”
According to Mr. Krichevsky, he submitted sample chapters to
several publishers in early October, and he and Ms. Corcoran and Mr.
Littlefield, who has done research for writer Gail Sheehy and the late Edwin
Diamond, considered the offers up till Nov. 16.
But the idea for a book first occurred to Ms. Corcoran two
summers ago, when she found herself writing down some of the “As mom used to
say … ” anecdotes she uses in speeches to her 600 brokers. Last summer, she
said, “[I] started writing outlines of some of my mother’s examples, and I
think I had come up with more than 50.”
She auditioned several ghostwriters (she wouldn’t name them) to
file sample first chapters and found Mr. Littlefield.
“He gets it,” Ms. Corcoran said.
“When we found this idea of using her mother’s lessons,” Mr.
Krichevsky said, “then it all came together.”
More likely, the project took
off once Ms. Corcoran sold her company, the Corcoran Group-for a reported $65
The book’s 21 “lessons” will be arranged first as stories in
which Ms. Corcoran describes various scenes from her Edgewater, N.J.,
upbringing, “then I jump back into my business situation,” she said, “and
describe everything I do in my business,” and how her mother’s lessons apply.
They range from the familiar (“Don’t save the good china for Sunday”) to the
more obscure (“If it’s quiet in the clubhouse, you’re not making spaghetti”).
A sample: “She’s working at the counter of the Fort Lee Diner,”
said Mr. Krichevsky (who also represents Sebastian Junger). “And there was
another waitress who had a very impressive figure, and all the men wanted to
sit in her section. Even when the counter was empty, they all wanted to sit
with Gloria. And Barbara didn’t know what to do about this, and talked to her
mother. ‘Barbara, if you don’t have big breasts, put ribbons on your
pigtails,’” her mother apparently counseled.
“She did that and looked sweet and innocent, and since people sat
with her, she was able to turn on her charm and get regular customers.”
And how did this make her millions in the Manhattan real-estate
market? “When she first became a real-estate broker and had a one-bedroom apartment
for rent that was not especially remarkable, she said, ‘Let me find a way to
put ribbons on the pigtails,’ and she got the landlord to build a wall and
build an apartment that she could advertise as ‘one bedroom plus den.’”
Asked why the hokey approach to a business book, Ms. Corcoran
said, “Most [business books], I find the format boring. I go to sleep.” But she
argued that her book would not be as soft and fuzzy as it might sound. “If it’s
soft, I’m not going to do it,” she said.
“When you grow up in a household of 10 children, you naturally
learn the art of competition. And when things are down, how well you compete
becomes the key issue, because only the strong survive-and so much of what we
got from my mother is that,” said Ms. Corcoran of her 77-year-old parent. “Nine
out of 10 of her kids wound up being entrepreneurs. She kept telling me I was
gonna be a star, and that I had a wonderful imagination, and she told me that
as I failed every subject at school.” There was the occasional slip: “She did
tell my brother that he would be a wonderful dancer, and he became a ballet
dancer and he hated it.
“Nothing turns [my family] on more than when the chips are down.
I’ve lived through three horrific real-estate cycles where my competitors have
gone out of business and I’ve moved ahead. I think the book almost comes into
its own the worse the economy gets, because it shoots between the eyes the idea
… of a down market as a huge advantage-any bad business cycle, because everyone
lays low and they’re leaving the stage wide open.
“I learned in business that if it’s quiet, it’s trouble,” she
said. “You have to figure out what people are really up to.”
Ms. Corcoran’s announcement of her book deal explains in part
what she’s been up to since she sold her business. But she’ll also be pulling
back from Corcoran a bit, she said, as she spends two days a week with Mr.
Littlefield finishing the manuscript.
East 79th Street
one-bath, 800-square-foot co-op.
$589,000. Selling: $577,500.
$1,205; 47 percent tax-deductible.
on the market: two weeks.
PERK: THEY LIKE YOUR POOCH There are nice-sized one-bedroom apartments, and
then there are nice-sized one-bedroom apartments that have a little something
extra. Located in a postwar co-op near Third Avenue, this apartment has prewar
details like high ceilings, crown moldings and sunny southern views, plus a
sunken living room, dining room and two small terraces. Add to this the fact
that the apartment had recently undergone a high-end renovation, and “I knew it
was going to be an easy sell,” said broker Julie Friedman of Bellmarc Realty.
“I could have sold it in the first day.” As it turned out, she showed the place
to about 18 people; the fourth person who saw it snatched it up. It turned out
that the new owner was as enamored of the dog-friendly building as she was of
the apartment itself.
West 73rd Street
one-bath, 750-square-foot co-op.
$375,000. Selling: $362,500.
$665.35; 52 percent tax-deductible.
on the market: five months.
12-YEAR ITCH A woman who’d been living for 12 years in this one-bedroom
corner apartment with east and south views put it on the market with broker
Pamela D’Arc of Stribling & Associates in January. “She just literally
needed a change,” said Ms. D’Arc. But not too much of a change, as it turned
out: As she was about to make an offer on another apartment in the
neighborhood, she found out that someone in the building was open to selling. “The
location is incredibly convenient, and the building has a wonderful roof deck,”
said Ms. D’Arc. “And although her new apartment is similar in size, it has a
different layout and a different view.” As long as it felt different enough to
West 16th Street
two-bath, 1,300-square-foot co-op.
$775,000. Selling: $762,500.
$1,245; 38 percent tax-deductible.
on the market: four weeks.
MAXIM-ALISM SELLS, TOO This is the second time in two years that Peter
Belmonte of the Corcoran Group has sold this two-bedroom apartment on 16th
Street and Sixth Avenue. Two years ago, the gay couple that had furnished the
apartment in a sleek minimalist style put the place on the market. “It looked
amazing,” Mr. Belmonte said. He sold the apartment to another couple, from
Tennessee, who had just moved from a 6,000-square-foot home in Knoxville. But
in June, the owners decided to head back to Tennessee. According to Mr.
Belmonte, the place was more difficult to sell the second time around. “They
had all this furniture in this decent-sized apartment; it was all cluttered and
disorganized,” he said. Mr. Belmonte showed it about 30 times before a
young couple decided to buy it for $100,000 more than the Knoxville couple paid
Seventh Avenue (Chelsea Mercantile)
two-bath, 2,100-square-foot condo.
$1.45 million. Selling: $1.35 million.
$890; not tax-deductible.
on the market: three weeks.
CASE FOR CONDOS Real-estate attorney Shane Sutton doesn’t like co-op
boards. In fact, he makes a good deal of his livelihood suing them on behalf of
clients who think they’re frivolous. But when Mr. Sutton, 50, left an Upper
East Side co-op in the winter of 2000 to buy a condo in the Chelsea Mercantile,
the mammoth redevelopment project at 25th Street and Seventh Avenue, he found
that the condo’s atmosphere-of neighborliness, exclusivity and smallness-was
somewhat lacking. “There are 365 units in the building,” said Mr. Sutton. He’d
bought the apartment based on a blueprint of the redesign, including a large
new rotunda lobby, interior gardens, communal sun deck, and the nine-foot
beamed ceilings, walk-in closets and limestone bathrooms in the apartments
themselves. “It’s a wonderful building, but I wanted something smaller.” After
a year, he put the apartment on the market and quickly found a buyer at $1.35
million. Looking for more personality, Mr. Sutton next hooked up with friends
who were marketing the Campiello, a new development at 151 West 17th Street, on
the site of the former Barneysparkinglot.”It’s smaller, a bit more personal,”
he said of the 50-unit building. He won’t be able to move in until June 2002,
so he’ll be staying in another apartment, on West 20th Street, that he also
owns but had been renting out. And while having friends who are helping to
market the building can’t hurt, he said, the beauty of condos is not having to
have an “in” at all.
MINIATURIST PAYS $13.15
FOR ENORMOUS GLASS HOUSE
Minnesota businessman Edward Bazinet made millions selling
miniature decorative porcelain and ceramic houses, but he’s bought himself a
new home that is anything but miniature. In October, Mr. Bazinet bought a
four-story modern glass house that sits atop a 140-year-old warehouse building
at 60 Warren Street in Tribeca. The seller was StarMedia Network Inc. chief
executive Fernando Espuelas.
Mr. Bazinet’s new home is located on the corner of Warren Street
and West Broadway and encompasses 9,300 square feet. It has a wall of windows,
three terraces and a private roof deck. It was originally conceived by the
developers as two apartments: a 6,000-square-foot triplex and a
3,300-square-foot single-floor apartment. Mr. Espuelas, who paid $6.1 million
for the place in 2000, decided to combine them. But before he had a chance to
finish renovating the space, his company’s stock plummeted, and he put the
place on the market for $10.95 million in March.
Mr. Bazinet, whose worth was
estimated by a Minnesota publication to be $180 million last year, making him
the 42nd-richest person in that state, already had an apartment in Manhattan.
In 1997, he’d purchased two adjoining penthouse apartments at 245 Seventh
Avenue, near the corner of West 24th Street, for a total of $1.698 million. The
two-bedroom, three-bath home-which is half the size of his new Tribeca home and
features a darkroom, a wood-burning fireplace and a terrace-went on the market
in January of this year for $5.87 million. That price was reduced to $4.9
million in October.